Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mr. Noah Built An Ark, People Called Him Such A Lark...

Mr. Noah built and ark,
People called him such a lark,
Mr. Noah pleaded so,
But into the ark they would not go,

Down came the rain in torrents,
Down came the rain in torrents,
Down came the rain in torrents,
But only eight were saved.

To fully appreciate this little ditty you have to envision us 3 kids singing it at the tops of our lungs at the ages of 2, 3 and 4 and either jumping up and down on a bed, or dancing on the coffee table. The complete faith of 3 children, singing our hearts out to anyone who would listen about the faith of one of the great Bible characters, and not caring what anyone thought about it.

I was reading in one of my favorite devotionals last night about the story of Simon Peter being called to be a fisher of men, and what struck me is how he too was told to do something by the Lord that probably didn't make any sense to himself, or those around him, but he did it anyways.

Luke 5:1-11
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left their by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men" So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.

The crowd clamors to get first pick of the fishermen's catch. But the sea was a miser that night. And the boats returned empty.

Jesus is among the crowd that morning and seizes the opportunity to teach. His teaching of the Word is so different from the scribes and pharisees. He doesn't hold it over their head like a club. He simple holds it up to the light. And thus held, a rainbow of color washes hope over the gray crowd. Colors of a new kingdom in the first blush of its dawn.

Peter is one of the fishermen who returned from the sea that morning with nothing to show for it but a sore back and nets that needed cleaning. Over those nets he now hunches, prying loose the slender, silky fingers of seaweed. As he does the ascending sun warms his chilled shoulders.

His brother Andrew is the one who first brought Peter to Jesus. He told him what John the Baptist said about Jesus being the Lamb of God. and he told him Jesus was the Messiah. Peter followed Jesus around Capernuaum as he taught in the synagogues and on the seashores. Like a Mediterranean sponge he soaked in everything he heard. Which is what he is doing now as, square by square, he goes through the mindless task of washing his net.

The eager crowd edges closer until there is no margin of shore left where Jesus can stand. So he gets in Peter's boat and asks him to push out. Quick to do the Master's bidding, the big fisherman oars out a short distance and drops anchor. Behind them the sun glints off the scalloped water in little flashes of gold, paving a shimmering road from boat to shore. And over that road the words of Jesus travel to the crowd once again.

With Jesus in the bow Peter sits in the middle of the boat, taking a mental knife to every sentence, just as he would to get at the fresh white meat of a fish.

Finally Jesus finishes with the crowd - but not with Peter. As if he is now the captain of Peter's boat, he issues an order, "put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch"

The burly fisherman picks his words carefully so as not to offend, "Master" he begins, little knowing how far or how deep this master's domain extends, "we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything." To himself he thinks, Lord, no offense, but this is my profession. Every fishermen knows that if you're going to catch fish, it's going to be at night when they rise to the surface to feed. And every fisherman knows that when the sun comes up it drives them to the depths, beyond the reach of the nets.

But Peter's respect for Jesus conceals these thoughts. and out of respect he obeys: "but because you say so, I will let down the nets"

As the hired hands row to deep water, Peter feels a little foolish. But he says nothing. Nor does Jesus until he calls out "Stop, Here, This is a good spot." The men take the weighted nets and heave them unfurling into the sea. As the nets sink, the silence continues. Peter holds the rope next to Jesus. This is an embarrassing moment for the experienced fisherman. And he is careful not to look at Jesus or his men. He just peers out into the sea.

But at the far end is a tug. Then another. and another. Suddenly, the nets are alive and jumping in their hands. The surface churns with fish slapping the sea and flashing in the sun. The fishermen strain at the ropes, and a few of the twined squares snap.

"James!" "John!" Peter calls out to his partners. "Come quick. We've got a catch so big the nets are breaking! Hurry!"

Above them hover squawking flurries of herons, cranes and cormorants, waiting to dart in and steal away what they can of the catch.

And all the while the nets pull the men's arms. The sockets of their shoulders burn, the ropes cut into their hands and their muscles twist to wring sweat from every pore. Their words are choppy: "careful... come my way... that's it... steady"

When the other boat arrives, the fishermen team up to pour the bulging net of silver into their empty hulls. But the treasure is so great that the portside rim dips below the waterline, spilling the sea into their boat. The men bail feverishly and start throwing fish back. All the men, that is, except Peter.

A jagged revelation rips through his soul and stops him in his tracks... this is no human messiah; this Master's domain reaches even to the depths of the sea.

He whirls around to look at Jesus and suddenly the murky depths of Peter's heart are dredged to the surface. And he realizes how unworthy he is even to be in the same boat with Jesus. Trembling, he sloshes over to Jesus and falls at his knees, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" An overwhelming sense of awe shivers through the crew as they await the Master's response. But his words carry no thunder. They are calm and full of promise. "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men"

Dear Master,
Help me to be faithful in the little things like cleaning nets, knowing that they could be your way of preparing me for greater things - like fishing for men. Help me to obey simply and solely "because you say so". And keep me from thinking that since I have fished a few waters that somehow I know better than you the course my life should take and the place my nets should be dropped.

Call me, Lord, out from a shallow faith near the shore, which requires no risks and offers no rewards. Call me to a deeper commitment to you. And when you call, grant that I would be quick in my boat, swift to my oars, and fast with my nets. And I pray, grant me the eyes to see who it is who labors by my side - an awesome and almighty God.

Take me to a place where I have worked hard by my own strength and yet ended up with empty nets. Take me there to show me the depths of your dominion and the net-breaking fullness of your power. Keep me ever aware that you are Lord. And ever aware that I am a sinful person. And in that knowledge keep me ever on my knees before You.

At your bidding, O Master, I will let down my nets. And at your bidding I will leave them forever behind. For what you have to offer is infinitely more than all the seas of this world ever could.

~Intimate Moments With The Savior

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Angels We Have Heard On High...

Angels: "Fear Not"
Shepherds: "Aaaaaaaahhh!"
Angels: "I said fear not"
Shepherds: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaahh!"
Angels: "What part of fear not do you not understand?"

Any avid fan of Jungle Jam and Friends is probably familiar with the quote above, I must admit it is one of my favorite Christmas quotes. As I was thinking about it last night it makes sense to me why the shepherds would have been scared, I mean come on, if you were a guy out there watching the sheep and an angel appeared in the sky I think you would be a little freaked out too! But what about the angels that aren't all bright and shiny, or that don't have wings, do we even recognize them, much less fear them?

A lot of people get out there and do their "good deeds" during the holidays to relieve their guilt. They go work the local soup kitchen, or ring a bell for the salvation army, or some such thing, which isn't bad, but what is the motivation behind it? To make ourselves feel better? To look good compared to others? Hebrews 13:2 says "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained strangers without knowing it." There are several stories my parents tell us of hosting strangers that were stranded on the side of the road etc. that needed help. One that jumps out the most in my mind are when we picked up a lady at the gas station who was broken down and brought her home from church with us. Sammi had been sick and miserable for days on end, but she climbed in this girl's lap and instantly fell asleep. Both mom and dad swear she must have been an angel, and after that day we never saw her again. The other story that is very vivid in my memory is when mom and dad were teaching us the concept of hospitality. We would host single men from our church for dinner every Tuesday night as well as having other young adults for holidays and weekends when their families weren't close by. On one of those occasions my mom told us to go feel Matt's back and see if he had wings. When he asked us what we were doing we told him we were looking for his wings to see if he was an angel :)

As you celebrate your Christmas this year remember that angels come in many forms, and you never know who you may be blessing with your hospitality.

Matthew 25:35-36, 40 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

All It Takes Is A Little Faith To See The World In A Wondrous Way...

I know it's a God thing when I feel inspired and encouraged by a poorly animated kids movie from 1999.

For the past two or so weeks I have been having a very hard time getting to sleep at night. I would go to bed just to lay there for hours and hours on end feeling royally miserable inside, I would eventually put on a movie or a favorite tv show until I fell asleep from pure exhaustion... so I wasn't sleeping until about 1am and then getting up at 6:15 to get ready for work, and I was turning into a walking zombie. All that said, two nights ago I was laying in bed browsing through the "holiday classics" (none of which I had ever heard of) on netflix and came across "The Nuttiest Nutcracker". Just a short way into the movie a nut starts singing this song about having faith in Christmas, but the only time that phrase is even mentioned is once, then the rest of the song is just about having faith and believing.

All it takes is a little faith, to see the world in a wondrous way,
Open up your heart and say you believe
and you will see the most miraculous things
No need to worry, let your troubles go
Lose your fears and let the laughter flow
Open up your heart and let your spirit free
Anything can happen when you believe 

I thought it was kinda neat. Then later in the movie when the princess is locked in the rat's dungeon there is a song about not giving up hope. It's supposed to be the prince singing to the princess, but that is never actually stated.

Don't think that you're alone when your heart is empty and you're far from home. 
Just reach out your hand, 
I will hold you, help you stand, 
feel the love that's all around, God's love showering down.

Calm me childish, but I was in tears by the end of that song. Between the first song and the second one, it tapped the misery I had been harboring inside and in just a couple minutes of saying "ok Lord" and letting myself rest in His love, I felt at peace on the inside like I hadn't in a long time. For the past 2 nights I have fallen asleep as soon as I have gone to bed, and tonight I'll sleep in my own bed for the first time since Shane left, so first time in a month. Do I know what is gonna happen next? No. Do I know when I will see Shane again? Nope. But instead of just seeing the "not knowing" in things, the world has taken on a different view of miraculous things, and it is beautiful because God really does work in wondrous ways.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If Your Waitin' For Love...

If your waitin' for love, well it's a promise I'll keep, if you don't mind believing that it changes everything, time will never matter.

One of the words I have the hardest time with is "wait", I would much rather hear a solid "yes" or solid "no", "wait" requires patience and perseverance, I can't move forward in any direction. One of the areas that I am deeply struggling right now is waiting for love. I'm gonna give a minute of "back history" before I explain.

Many of you have asked the story of me and Shane, and here is the reader's digest condensed version. Shane and I have been friends since we were 10 and 12. We met at Fox Hollow Farm where I first learned how to ride horses and at the time Shane was working there. At the time we were in the same 4-H group and our homes were only a couple of miles apart so we would she each other here and there at 4-H events and the occasional homeschool get together. We lost touch for a couple of years until I was about 16 or so, and then I ran into Shane and his brother working at our local grocery store. Every day from that point until they left for college that fall I would see Shane in P&C when I stopped for my chocolate milk fix on my way home from work, we'd talk for a couple of minutes and then I'd go on my way. After he left for school I received a letter from him asking if it was ok to write me, I said sure (and yes I still have all of his letters). We wrote back and forth for the semester and then saw each other again when he came home, and he decided not to go back to that school. Through the months he was home it wasn't always easy, but we remained friends. In 2007 I moved to FL, we kept in touch, but after a time we parted ways for about 6 months. In the fall of 2008 we started talking again and I went to Miracle Mountain Ranch for the apprentice program. In January of 2009 the subject of courtship/dating was approached, but there wasn't a peace about it, so we took a step back for another while. In the fall of 2009 we were talking again (seeing a pattern here?), and into 2010 as friends. In the fall of 2010 I had a different "romantic interest" when Shane wanted to approach the topic of dating again. Once again we parted ways for a while. Then, once again, this past spring we started talking again. We both knew we would be seeing each other at my brother's wedding in September, so we needed to know where we stood. As the fall drew closer we approached some tough topics that we had disagreements on, and many many hard conversations ensued as we both wanted to move forward, but didn't see a way with us having different beliefs. When I got to NY for the wedding Shane came and picked me up for a day out on the town that both of us greatly enjoyed. We hadn't seen each other in 3 very long years, so a day together was very special. Unfortunately with all the wedding stuff going on we didn't get an opportunity to discuss the "elephant in the room", which made parting that night rather difficult, but I knew I would see him in 2 days at the wedding. We sat together at the wedding, but again we couldn't talk with all the distractions. When he left that night it felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest because I didn't know when I would see him again and having un-resolved issues between us was more than miserable. The following week I was at MMR to visit, and that Saturday we were out at the woodpile for the first wood bee of the year (one of my favorite activities!). I was running a stacking crew and my phone went off with a text from Shane saying he was there and looking for me. I've never bailed off the woodpile so fast in my life! I showed him around the ranch and then we sat in the mess hall and talked for about 3 hours. In that time we worked out our "issues" with each other and decided to give this a go. He called my dad the following week and we have been dating ever since :) I was blessed by a surprise 3 week visit from Shane back at the beginning of November. He has applied for jobs out here and is hoping to move out here sometime soon, but for now he is back at home in NY, which is where I was headed with this post.

For both of us the struggle with waiting for God to bring us both to the same place has been very hard. After the ups and downs, proving and strengthening of our friendship and being apart for so many years we both just want to be together, at least in the same state would be nice! But for the moment God just keeps saying "wait". So we are waiting, or trying to at least.

On a personal level (ie: just me), I am waiting with work, waiting with what to do with Shane, waiting to buy a car, waiting for my life to feel like it is going somewhere. Last night I was talking with Shane and described my currents feelings like "I'm running on a treadmill, getting all sweaty and tired, but not really going anywhere.". I want to be financially independent, I want to be able to see Shane any day I want without having to fly across the country etc.

The ironic part is that just a week ago I taught on "Godliness with Contentment" (1 Tim 6:6-8) at Bible study. Looking back through my notes today I was struck by Philippians 4:11-13 "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." In EVERY circumstance, whether in plenty, or in little, I can be content, because I don't gain my power from within my human self, but from my Heavenly Father who breathed the stars into existence and holds the universe in the palms of His hands. The same God who came to earth and died on the cross out of His love for me, and cares about everything that happens in my life, is the God that controls when things do and don't happen. So when He says "wait" my answer shouldn't be "how long?" or "why?", but "yes Lord, and how can I serve you better where I am at right now?". The feeling of running on a treadmill may be true, but instead of focusing on the sweat and pain my focus should be on the strength I am gaining for when He says "now you can go".

Here are the rest of the lyrics from "Sunny Days" by Jars of Clay

Sunny days keepin' the clouds away
I think we're coming to a clearing and a brighter day

So far away. Still I think they say
The wait will make the heart grow stronger or fonder
I can't quite remember anyway

So if you're waitin' for love
Well it's a promise I'll keep
If you don't mind believing that it changes everything
Then time will never matter

Winter, Spring... is what love can truly bring
Ice turns to water, water flows to everything
You can lose your mind, maybe then your heart you'll find
I hope you won't give up what's moving you inside

So if you're waitin' for love
Well it's a promise I'll keep
If you don't mind believing that it changes everything
Then time will never matter

If the car won't start, when you turn the key
When the music comes on, all your cold, cold heart can do is skip a beat

It's a promise I'll keep
When you're waitin' for love
If you don't mind believing that it changes everything
Then time will never matter

Thursday, December 8, 2011

If You Want Me To...

 Why does the same old thing come back and bite me in the butt every single time? Why does it seem like I never grow in this area, it just stays a weakness? Why does it always hurt the people I love the most?
To some of you what I am gonna say isn't rocket science, but right now it feels like I am battling for my life, and I am definitely fighting for my future. So here it goes...

a) my outward confidence is to an extent a coverup for the scared and insecure little girl on the inside
b) in my insecure moments I mess up
c) I'm working on it

Thankfully God forgives me when I mess up... now I'm asking, will you?

If You Want Me To
Ginny Owens

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I'm gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

No I'm not who I was
When I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
Then I will walk through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'll never go alone (yeah oh oh)

So when the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
I'll remember the sufferin' Your love put You through
And I will walk through the darkness
If You want me to

'Cause when I cross over Jordan, I'm gonna sing, gonna shout
Gonna look into your eyes and see you never let me down
So take me on the pathway that leads me home to you
And I will walk through the valley if you want me to

Yes, I will walk through the valley if you want me to